Hi, Friends -
I have just returned from four days in Costa Rica (1 day in San Jose and 3 days in La Fortuna). The following is information that you may find useful in planning your trip to those areas:
1) I stayed for one night in Hotel Presidente. My positive review of this hotel has already been published by TripAdvisor.
2) A taxi (Taxi Aeropuerto) from the airport to downtown San Jose (Hotel Presidente) cost $30. The Taxi Aeropuerto stand (unmarked) is next to the car rental booths on the far right after your luggage is scanned in Customs. Or, simply walk outside and hail a taxi when you exit Customs.
3) Ignore the bright yellow signs at the money exchange booths at the airport that scream "You Need Local Money." You don't. I found US dollars widely accepted at restaurants, taxis, and my hotel. Remember to use small bills ($5, $10, $20) in taxis, museums, and restaurants and bigger bills ($50, $100) in hotels. Keep in mind that if you pay with US dollars, you may receive change in Colones and/or dollars.
4) I experienced little to no harassment from hawkers and touts. The only incident I experienced was a "sick pregnant wife" sob story from a man at the gate of the Teatro Nacional.
5) A good meal was had at Nuestra Tierra Restaurant.
6) Museo de Jade: $15 entry fee. 5 separate floors of polished jade and other artifacts from indigenous peoples, with 1 to 2 rooms of artifacts on each floor. Photos without flash okay.
7) Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismatica: $11 entry fee. Photos without flash okay.
8) Teatro Nacional: $7 entry fee. Free guided tours in english and spanish. Photos without flash okay.
9) The $29 departure tax must be paid at the airport before checking-in with your airline and collecting your boarding passes.
10) There is no re-stamping of your passport by immigration authorities during your departure process at the airport. The departure process (dropped off at airport by taxi, paid departure tax, check-in with airline and obtained boarding passes, security screening) took approximately 35 minutes at around 10:30 in the morning.
1) An Interbus transfer from San Jose to La Fortuna was around 3 hours and cost $47. The Interbus driver stopped at Mi Ranchito (souvenir shop with clean bathrooms) for 15 minutes at the halfway point between San Jose and La Fortuna. The prices for souvenirs were better than what I found in La Fortuna.
2) La Catarata de la Fortuna (La Fortuna Waterfall): A 4 kilometer, 45-minute uphill walk from the main road (take a taxi!). Entry fee $10. New stairs at the beginning of the descent to the waterfall quickly become older, uneven, and much more treacherous the closer you get to the bottom and nearer to the waterfall.
3) I stayed for three nights at Hotel Cerro Azul. My very positive review of this hotel has already been published by TripAdvisor.
4) I paid $100 for a tour of the Tenorio Volcano National Park with Eccoterra. The tour bus ride from La Fortuna to the Park was 1 1/2 hours each way, with a 4-hour round trip hike (the Pinol Trail) inside the Park. Sites included the Rio Celeste Waterfall, Blue Lagoon, Bubbling Spring, Mirador, and the Mixing Point. Lunch at a small soda near the entrance to the Park was included in the tour. WARNING: A smooth, flat, concrete path at the entrance to the Park quickly becomes a muddy, cobbled, uphill/downhill path for the rest of the way through the Park, and becomes an absolute muddy mess in any rain showers (light or heavy). Bring a poncho at a minimum and rubber boots with waterproof (GoreTex) pants/shirt/jacket at a maximum.
5) Arenal Volcano National Park: $35 each way by taxi from/to La Fortuna. Entry fee $8. The Waterfall Trail, Saino Trail, and Hormiga Trail at the Arenal Observatory Lodge were relatively flat and made of concrete or crushed stone. There is a nice view of Arenal Lake and the volcano from the Lodge, with access to the Cerro Chato Trail, Old Lava Trail, and Los Cangrejos Trail (varying degrees of difficulty to hike, from easy to difficult).
6) Meters on the red taxis start at 615 Colones when you are first picked-up.
7) Good meals were had at La Cascada Restaurant, Restaurant Don Rufino, Mar and Tierra Restaurant, and Novillitos Restaurant.
8) An Interbus transfer from La Fortuna to the airport in San Jose cost $47 and took 2 hours 20 minutes, which included a 15-minute rest stop once again at Mi Ranchito.
Comments and questions from other TripAdvisor members are welcome.